Q. I’m 61 and my husband is 57. He will retire early next year, while I’m already retired and collecting a $1,450 monthly pension. Today he earns twice what I did when I was working. He will collect a pension worth the same amount when he retires, and he plans to work part-time. I plan to wait until my full retirement age to collect Social security, which will be $1,850 per month. We’re wondering if there are options between both of our Social Security benefits, such as him collecting a spousal benefit, so we can collect the most possible?
A. Congratulations on your retirements!
There are several scenarios to consider, but you’ll need to sit down with a rep at your local Social Security office to be sure of the benefits available to you. Waiting until you reach full retirement age to collect benefits is a wise strategy because it prevents your benefit from being reduced by filing early, said Claudia Mott, a certified financial planner with Epona Financial Solutions in Basking Ridge.
“If you were to file at age 62, your benefit would be cut by 25 percent or more permanently,” Mott said. “Over a lifetime, that reduction can add up to a lot of lost income.” While you aren’t able to claim your own Social Security benefit and a spousal benefit as well, there are a number of different filing strategies that you may wish to consider, she said. But, the most important part of that decision really depends on the cash flow you need to cover your living expenses,” she said.
For starters, your husband cannot collect a spousal benefit off of your earnings record at age 62 and then switch to his own benefit at his full retirement age, said Amanda Lott, a certified financial planner with Regent Atlantic Capital in Morristown. “This is because your husband’s own benefit is likely higher than his spousal benefit off of your record.” she said. “His spousal benefit off of your record would be $925 (50% * $1850) and that’s if he started collecting at full retirement age.” Lott said his own retirement benefit at full retirement age would probably be higher than that because you said he earned twice as much as you did and your own benefit is $1,850.
Until your husband reaches full retirement age, Lott said, he does not have the ability to choose which benefit he collects, but he simply gets the higher of the two. Therefore, if he starts collecting at age 62, he will be deemed to have started collecting his own benefit, she said. Lott created this chart — which includes cost of living increases — to show you many of the possible scenarios, all dependent on when you both choose to take benefits.